LEXINGTON, Ky. – Add one more to the list. After landing players on three of the first four Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame positional preseason lists, sophomore forward Nick Richards was tabbed as a candidate for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar watch list for the nation’s best center.
Earlier in the week, Tyler Herro was tabbed to the early-season list for the Jerry West Award (best shooting guard), Keldon Johnson made the Julius Erving Award (best small forward), and Reid Travis and PJ Washington were selected to the Karl Malone award (best power forward).
Named after Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a three-time NCAA champion and a six-time NBA most outstanding player, this year’s award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in April. Richards is looking to become the first Wildcat to win the award since its inception in 2015.
Previous winners of the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award include Angel Delgado, Seton Hall (2018), Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga (2017), Jakob Poeltl, Utah (2016) and Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (2015).
Including Richards, five players from the Southeastern Conference are on the preseason list.
The Kingston, Jamaica, native was one of two Wildcats to start in all 37 games a season ago. He averaged 5.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game, while scoring in double figures in seven games. He poured in a career-high 25 points and snared 15 rebounds against Fort Wayne in his most complete effort of the season. He led the team in rebound in eight games and in blocks on 12 occasions.
Richards enjoyed a strong performance for the Cats during the Bahamas exhibition tour. He averaged 12.0 points, 4.8 boards and 1.5 blocks per game as UK won all four meetings against professional players. He topped the 10-point plateau in three of the four games, including a 19-point effort vs. the Bahamas national team. He shot 80.0 percent from the floor and 84.2 percent from the free-throw line.
By mid-February, the watch list for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award will be trimmed to 10 players. Five finalists will be revealed in March with the winner being announced during the annual ESPN College Basketball Awards show on April 12.
Kentucky is slated to begin exhibition play beginning with its annual Blue-White Game on Sunday. That game will air live on the SEC Network at 7 p.m. UK will follow that with two tune-ups against Transylvania on Oct. 26 and Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 2. Both of those games will also air live on the SEC Network with 7 p.m. tip times. The Wildcats open the regular season in Indianapolis for the State Farm Champions Classic. They will face Duke at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.